WASHINGTON (May 26, 2006) -- As part of the ongoing support of the Haitian people by the Catholic Church, Most Rev. Thomas G. Wenski, Bishop of Orlando, met yesterday with members of Congress to advocate for increased trade between the United States and the Caribbean nation.
As Chairman of the Committee on International Policy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Bishop Wenski met with Representative Clay Shaw (R-FL) and key staff of Charles Rangel (D-NY) of the House Ways and Means Committee to urge support for meaningful trade preference legislation for Haiti. Bishop Wenski was also warmly received by the Congressman from his own diocese, Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL).
"By offering preferential access to the US market for its apparel goods, Haitian industry would be able to stem the flow of manufacturing jobs that have been leaving Haiti for several years. The apparel industry that once employed up to 100,000 people is now reduced to offering jobs for just 20,000 Haitian workers," Bishop Wenski said.
"With the new democratically-elected President Rene Préval in place, Haiti needs not only economic aid, but economic investment that will create jobs, promote stability and give Haitians a reason to work towards a better future. The passage of the US-Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement offered trade preferences for Haiti's neighbors. Fairness requires that Haiti receives similar treatment that will stimulate sustained economic growth. Extending trade preferences that offer increased job opportunities is part of our moral obligation towards the poorest in the Hemisphere," Bishop Wenski said. "Miami is geographically closer to Haiti than to Atlanta. The Haitian people are our neighbors."
"I am grateful for the support of Mr. Shaw and Mr. Rangel. But much more needs to be done. As we have suggested before, it is a moral imperative that the Administration and the United States Trade Representative take decisive action on this matter. All parties need to act now to help Haiti on the path towards stability and reconstruction. The USCCB will be tireless in urging the Administration and Congress to secure passage of trade preference legislation for Haiti."
Bishop Wenski wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and US Trade Representative Rob Portman on April 10, 2006, urging support for trade preference legislation. Last December, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick met with President Bush in the Oval Office and asked him to intervene personally to work towards passage of a trade bill for Haiti.
"The people of Haiti are waiting for our help so that they can help themselves," Bishop Wenski said. "The Church will do everything it can to secure this much-needed piece of legislation. Trade can serve to lift people out of poverty. Trade contains a moral dimension. In the case of Haiti, increased trade is an opportunity to express our compassion towards the needy and most vulnerable, one that we cannot afford to pass up."
For copies of the USCCB letters written to Secretary of State Rice and US Trade Representative Portman, please visit: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/HaitilettertoSecRice2006Final.pdf
For copies of USCCB letters written to Members of Congress, please visit: